Sometimes it seems this Boston Celtics season is some kind of Sisyphean punishment.
This is a team that constantly finds itself at the bottom of a hill, exhausted and exasperated, staring at a rock they’d pushed nearly to the top, only to watch it slip out of their hands and roll down again.
While it’s happening, we’re all standing around watching the rock go up, then down again, all the while discussing why it keeps falling, whether the wrong person is pushing it, and why, perhaps, the way they’re pushing it is all wrong in the first place.
Every season, 30 teams grab their rocks and push. Some teams, like the Celtics right now, barely take two steps before they slip and get steamrolled by the boulder on its way back down.
“It’s another heartbreaking loss,” Jaylen Brown said after the 110-107 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. “I think we played well in spots, yet again, we’ve just got to finish games better. (Luka) Doncic obviously got the switch and hit two tough shots. And it’s tough.”
The Celtics do, indeed, play well in spots. They no longer, however, play well in games. And this is what leads to so much angst and arguing between fans. The Celtics seem to shift what’s broken to a new area every game or two, giving both optimists and pessimists their evidence.
The Celtics came out strong against the Pelicans on Sunday but faded down the stretch. The optimist looks at the first two-and-a-half quarters and declares ‘A ha! Proof that they can be good!’ And then the fourth quarter provides the pessimist with a counter-argument.
Then, against Dallas, the Celtics play lethargic basketball for most of the game, giving the pessimist the perfect opportunity to declare ‘See?!? They couldn't even come out strong after such a horrible loss. They have no heart!’ Then the final three minutes show quite the opposite.
The atmosphere surrounding the Celtics is nearly as toxic as the sulfuric acid-soaked air of Venus. Their biggest challenge of the moment is to get through this storm and see if there’s any relief on the other side.
“We're still trying to find that consistency with each other because things vary from game-to-game,” Brown said. “The more we're out there, more guys get rhythm and get comfortable and our rotations get a little bit more set in stone. I think the trust is going to continue to build. I think we are building a lot of trust. I feel better about us defensively and offensively. We just gotta string it together and I think it's just a matter of time."
Herein lies the big question with these Celtics. Is the fix as simple as set rotations, rhythm, and rest? Or is the problem the result of a fundamental underlying flaw?
The Celtics committed